Well, the underlining to make a point is still in effect – straining too hard to be heard – though I seem to have reined it in a little for this Pantry For The World editorial, when compared with the previous issue. My new favourite trick was the use of ellipses.
That aside, this is strong stuff, and it brings the psychic energy of that time out of the stock room of my mind and right back onto the shop floor. Pop groups; situationism; London; Kevin’s ‘parturient Esurient’ record label. A network of fanzine friends, potential co-conspirators, up and down the country. Political and personal revolution.
The ‘plaintive cries’ quote is from an A5 pamphlet called Effigy by “Scolex”, which I bought in Compendium in Camden, a haven for all shades of left-wing and outsider literature. I must have visited that shop on a more or less weekly basis for a fair number of years, in conjunction with Rhythm Records across the High Street. I still have Effigy, among many other weird and wonderful publications which I suspect one day will have some kind of historical value. Its eight pages hold a set of thirty-odd pensées or aphorisms which owe a debt not only to the situationists but also to an unholy alliance of French Symbolist poet Paul Valéry’s Analects and Morrissey’s witticisms. Now a fair number strike me as commonplace or mundane, including the one I quoted, and, for example: ‘Unwritten rules are the most exhausting to rebel against.’ But I still like ‘Conceal your existence to resist the control of those who would revert their attention to you and swamp you with the futility of the plans they strive to have for you.’ It’s possibly a more sophisticated response to power and authority than the attack the Manic Street Preachers were about to unleash, though obviously a less effective one. And yet, in the end, Richey Edwards chose the ultimate concealment of his existence.
My situationist fixation had led me into developing a hypersensitivity to advertising and the potential to subvert corporate messages. ‘FREEDOM TO TAKE OFF ANYTIME’ was Reed employment agency’s catchy little 1989 campaign. To an avid fan of Bob Black’s The abolition of work, freedom most certainly was not equated with filing and photocopying. An interest in signs of all kinds was sparked; the use of words not just in advertising but in those kinds of messages you bump into randomly as you move about the world – outside shops, churches, in the middle of nowhere. I’ve snapped a lot of similar signs since, either to subvert the subversion of subversion and so restore the universe to balance, or simply because they are comic – as I hope a quick look at the ‘Signs of life’ photographs over at A wild slim alien will reveal.
How quickly revolutionary zeal comes up hard against real world necessity. After a depressed and depressing year on the dole, I surrendered, and walked into a Reed equivalent, Manpower, and let them place me in a temp job: clerical assistant with London Underground’s Lifts & Escalators division, Pumps & Drainage (New works) section. Manpower obviously knew what I was good for. Filing and photocopying.
That one line I elevated from the horizontal – ‘be Fire Raisers’. A reference to the play by Max Frisch, which one of my contingent of Devonian friends had recommended to me. Alistair and I would use it as the title of the collaborative project we were about to embark upon. But more of that before long.
Appearing around the time that the Manic Street Preachers took to the stage to help celebrate Heavenly’s eighteenth birthday last month, here is a great interview by Simon Price with Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield. It focusses on their time on the Heavenly label, and includes some reflections on the group’s first London outing, promoted (I use that word in its loosest sense) by ‘mod English eccentric’ Kevin Pearce. Bob Stanley wasn’t the only one laughing that night – the Manics compelled a reaction, and the laughter was instinctive; pleasure that they were as over the top as they were, mixed with an undercurrent of derision (for they seemed ludicrously deluded), and possibly an edge of hysteria at what might happen next.
There are honourable mentions in the interview for the Claim and Bullfrog fanzine (edited by Chris Jones who is discussed elsewhere in these pages), apparently a favourite of James’. The tone of the interview is affectionate and humble, and it’s hard not to smile at the idea of Jeff Barrett and Martin Kelly as an indie version of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.